The top two teams of the Atlantic 10 Conference—Saint Louis and Virginia Commonwealth—will square off for the conference title after successfully winning their way through the 2013 tournament.
After finishing the regular season first and second, respectively, it seems only fitting that the two do battle in the final game to determine the A-10's best team—as well as picking up an automatic bid for the upcoming 2013 NCAA Tournament.
Given the strength that both teams have displayed this season, it's shaping up to be a thrilling final that should provide plenty of highlights and key talking points.
Read on for a full preview of the title game including all the necessary details, as well as a last-minute prediction for the 2013 conference champion.
Date: Sunday, March 17, 2013
Start time: 1:00 p.m. ET
Venue: Barclays Center, Brooklyn, New York
Road to the Final
Having qualified as the top two seeds, both Saint Louis and Virginia Commonwealth needed only to win two games to make it through to the conference final in 2013.
The Billikens racked up a comfortable 17-point victory over Charlotte in the quarterfinals of the tournament before defeating Butler by 11 points in the semifinals. Neither game caused too much stress for the No. 16 ranked team in the country.
The Rams, however, faced a much tougher time progressing through to the title game, narrowly surviving Saint Joseph's by three points in the quarterfinals before defeating Massachusetts in the semifinals by nine.
Key to Victory: Saint Louis
Much like the Billikens showed in their recent win against Butler (as well as in their win against VCU during the yea), their ability to force turnovers will be the biggest key to victory in the tournament final.
Against Butler, Saint Louis forced and capitalized on a staggering 20 turnovers in its 11-point win. A similar thing happened when the Billikens played VCU during the year—a 21-1 run in the first half overwhelmed the Rams.
That lead would ultimately be too much for VCU to overcome, and it cannot allow a similar thing to happen if they want to stop Saint Louis on Sunday.
Look for the Saint Louis defense to set up strongly around the perimeter to force poor shots and limit VCU's passing options. If the Billikens can force turnovers early in this one, expect them to run away to an easy win.
Key to Victory: Virginia Commonwealth
While Saint Louis has a strong defense, the Rams have an explosive offense, and they'll need to use that to full advantage if they're to win this game.
The Rams rank eighth in the country in points scored per game (78.2 points)—nearly a full 10 points more on average than the Billikens. What's more, they've managed to hit that mark in six of their past nine contests and look to do the same in the title game.
Saint Louis won't want to get into a shootout with Virginia Commonwealth, and the former's tough defense will be key to making sure that that won't happen. On the other side, expect the Rams to take early shots early in the clock and to also exploit Saint Louis in transition.
If they can't score quickly, then it seems they'll struggle to win this one, given Saint Louis' talent and depth on defense.
It's going to be a typical offense-against-defense encounter as the two best teams in the Atlantic 10 this season square off Sunday for the conference's top spot.
Saint Louis' defense should hold up relatively well against the Rams' offense, putting the onus somewhat back on the Rams defense to come up with big plays in this one.
And if how the tournament has played out so far is anything to go by, you'd have to favor the Billikens to have enough firepower to stick with VCU.
A strong first half should give Saint Louis an insurmountable lead, with the Rams offensive attack coming up just short against the Billikens' lockdown defense.
Saint Louis by seven points.
How Do You See the Atlantic 10 Conference Final Unfolding?
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